Joint MBA/MA and JD/MA: Spanish Language and Culture Program

An underlying premise of the Lauder Spanish Language & Culture Program curriculum is that effective cross-cultural management requires both a high level of language proficiency, which demonstrates abstract thinking and conceptual communication, and a correspondingly strong understanding of the history, culture, politics, and business practices of the Spanish-speaking world. The curriculum develops both dimensions and prepares students to understand the larger cultural context in which Spanish business takes place.

Spanish Language and Culture courses integrate applied language study and cultural analysis in a comprehensive program made up of the following phases:

May Courses
Summer Immersion
Academic Year

May Courses
Spanish program students take two classes in May, including International Political Economy of Business Environments (INTS 721) with all first-year MBA/MA and JD/MA Lauder students. In addition, the students take Latin America Area History (INTS 71X) with students in the Portuguese program. Students also receive Spanish language instruction and do coursework in May to prepare them for the upcoming overseas summer immersion in June and July. May language course activities are required, and along with the summer immersion, count toward the first academic unit of the INTS Spanish Language and Culture curriculum. Activities related to the Spanish Language and Culture Program include, but are not limited to, a review of important people and events in Spanish and Latin American history, an overview of current economic and political issues, introduction to the business culture and environment in the Spanish-speaking world and relevant business topics, preparation of résumés in Spanish, and one-on-one interviews in Spanish, all of which are geared towards increasing language proficiency and cultural understanding.

Spanish Summer Immersion
A core component of the program is the eight-week summer immersion in Lima, Peru and Bogota, Colombia. The primary goals of the Spanish summer immersion experience are to advance students’ language proficiency for academic and professional contexts, expand their cultural literacy/knowledge and develop an increased disposition for critical reflection. These are achieved through in-language classroom instruction, seminars, excursions and company visits.
Students complete about 100 hours of in-language classroom instruction focused on economic, social, political and business topics during summer immersion. The content complements the Latin America Area History course from May and provides an opportunity for students to reflect upon the historic, linguistic and cultural context of the Spanish-speaking world. Over the summer, students develop the ability to discuss complex social, political, cultural, and economic issues; develop increasingly formal and culturally appropriate communicative abilities; and work towards obtaining a Superior level of language proficiency as defined by ACTFL guidelines. Students also conduct research and interviews in teams in order to write a short article on a business, economic, cultural, or political topic related to their summer immersion site. These articles are published by Knowledge at Wharton, as part of a new series called the Lauder Global Business Insight Report. Recent articles by students in the Spanish program have included such diverse topics as entrepreneurship in Colombia’s emerging economy, the Colombian coffee and flower industry, sustainable housing in Mexico, the impact of drug trafficking and violence on Mexico’s economic development, for-profit higher education in Mexico, expansion of Spain’s Telefónica into Latin America, the success of Span’s top infrastructure companies, the Mexican oil dilemma, and the story of the La Michoacana brand in Mexico.

Through a diverse agenda of national and multinational organization visits and guest speakers, students are exposed to the current economic and business landscape and future outlook of the region. While visits may change from year to year, previous visits in Colombia have included Colombia: AviancaTaca, Bancolombia, Cerrejón, Passion Growers, Interactuar, Procafecol S.A. Juan Valdez, and Refinancia.  Students can also expect to participate in cultural activities, such as to Cartagena and Medellin, and gatherings with alumni.

Academic Year
Upon their return from the immersion program, students complete their academic degree requirements through INTS Spanish Language and Culture Program courses. The program complements the international MBA business and management skills developed at Wharton and in Lauder’s International Studies curriculum to prepare both MBA and JD students to confidently navigate a rapidly changing global economic, political, social and cultural landscape. The Language and Culture Program during each semester of the two-year program includes classroom instruction and specialized activities. Thematic content during the two years typically draw upon political, legal, socio-economic, and market issues; literature, history, and philosophy; contemporary business and industry concerns; arts, film, media, and sports as contemporary expressions of a culture and its values; and issues related to current events. Our small, focused classes emphasize mastery of the language, with the goal of reaching a Superior-level of language proficiency, and develop students’ ability for critical thinking and problem solving within the framework of Hispanic culture. Students are expected to demonstrate their linguistic proficiency and content awareness through activities that range from debates, presentations, reports, reading and writing assignments and discussions. Over the two years students explore the following four themes:

Local and Global Cultures - Spanish language, variations, and its economic implications in society; immigration, acculturation, and new identities in the Spanish-speaking world; and economic phenomena and their contexts in relation to the global economy.

Territories, Borders, and Displacements - exploring regional multiplicities and their complex dynamics in order to understand Spanish-speaking societies.

National Cultures - major Latin American national projects and their effects at the present time, presence and role of the main ethnic groups in the nation-building process and the political implications in these nations, and the importance of cultural products in relation to national identity.

Postmodern manifestations: Presence and Trends - different energy sources as well as some of their current political, economic, social, and environmental consequences; revolutionary trends and manifestations in different areas of Hispanic society such as education, politics, etc.; and the impact and outcome of technological development in different areas of social dynamics.

In addition to class, students explore the different facets of the target culture in contexts that take them outside the classroom. One example is the spring semester mini immersions. These extended in-language activities vary from year to year but are usually related to the themes of the academic curriculum. Last year’s mini immersion took the group for a wine tasting followed by a Spanish dinner. Some students attended a concert of Paco de Lucia, who is considered to be the most innovative and influential flamenco artist of the past three decades, and others opted to visit Puerto Rico to learn about the history and current situation of the country.

Lauder students complete their MA degree with a course sequence that includes International Political Economy of Business Environments and the Global Economic History, two approved electives from the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Global Knowledge Lab research project.